Using Subheads and Lists to Make Articles Skimmable

Studies show that, on the Web, people don’t actually read content, instead they skim it and read less than half the words, even on short articles. Some of this is due to the greater distractions on the Web but much of it has been true since the age of the newspaper.

While this may seem to be bad news for writers, who have to accept that readers aren’t hanging on every single word, it can actually be used to the advantage of bloggers to help convey information more quickly and effectively.

However, to do this, you have to master two writing techniques that will make your writing instantly more skimmble.

How to Use Subheads Effectively

The first tool is subheads, which are mini-headlines that are sprinkled into the post to separate sections, usually every 200-500 words. They break up the content visually and also provide good SEO value if they are loaded with keywords and use one of the header tags (H1-H6).

Readers, when skimming the article, will often read subheads first and make decisions on if the article is worth reading and all and, if it is, what sections are worth delving deeper into.

So use subheads as you would any other headline, this means making them keyword-rich, usually 5-8 words long and descriptive of the content beneath it, this will make even your shorter works much easier to navigate.

Include Lists to Highlight Key Points

Another powerful tool to make your article instantly skimmable is to include lists. You can use subheads to do this, turning your entire article into a list such as the articles you routinely see on or you can integrate a shorter list using HTML to bring out key points.

Lists have three key advantages.

  1. They Organize Information Well: Humans naturally want information in and ordered fashion and lists provide that.
  2. They Draw Attention: HTML separates lists from the rest of the text, making it stand out and easy to attract attention to key points.
  3. They Build Interest: A well-written list will make readers want to go back and go through the rest of the text to see how the list was compiled. However, for those who don’t read more they still gain some bite-sized information through the list itself.

In short, a list is a great way to introduce the reader to the key points of an article in an appealing fashion and then encourage them to read more.

Writing for the Eye Isn’t Hard

In the end, though writing for the eye might seem to be difficult, it really is not that hard. It’s a matter of formatting text so that it can be quickly understood, at least on a surface level.

Fortunately there are many HTML formatting tricks to help with that and these are just two of the most important ones.

For more tips on this, you may wish to check out the writing techniques preached by advertising legend David Ogilvy as he was using many of these exact same methods over fifty years ago in his ads.

These methods are a major part of why he is widely considered one of the best copywriters and advertising geniuses to have ever lived.

This post was written by Lior who works for an online task management tool start-up from new york and also advises to a breastfeeding wear company.